Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ten Thousand Villages Faves

I've been perusing the Ten Thousand Villages website lately, and I can't believe how many cool things are there. It's kind of sad, really, since I can't really get any of their stuff. It doesn't appear that they ship out of North America, and even if they did, I wouldn't have any space in my tiny room to accommodate any new stuff, no matter how cute.

The other thing that I like about Ten Thousand Villages is that its purpose is to provide a market for artisans in developing countries. Their stuff may be great, but they won't sell much of it if no one knows about it. This gives them a selling venue. Also, Ten Thousand Villages is a free trade organization, so it consults with the artisans and experts in the area to set a fair wage for their work. They were voted one of the "World's Most Ethical Companies" by Forbes Magazine for the past three years. Cheers!

Anyway, even if I can't have any of these lovelies myself, I thought I'd share them all with you.

This scarf is awesome! Not to mention green and blue, just the best colors in the world (especially green).

A super cool necklace. I would wear this over diamonds any day.

This is probably my favorite item! Isn't it amazingly cute? In their own words, it's so round, so fat, so cheerful!

I don't even know, but this is sweet.

This is a "Red Owl Wall Candle Sconce." Basically, you hang it on your wall and put a candle inside. I could see a whole row of them in a backyard, lit up for parties.

So what do you guys think? Do you have any Ten Thousand Villages favorites?
Here's there website, if you want to look for yourself.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Music Monday: Hong Kong Hardcore!

This is one of my most exciting Music Mondays yet! At least it is to me. I'm totally ditching my Christmas theme because the most exciting thing happened! Ready for it? I WENT TO AN ASIAN HARDCORE/METAL SHOW!

See? Isn't that thrillingly stunning? Of course, I have to share my enthusiasm with you all, even you metal-haters.

Before I even left the States I had searched for Hong Kong metalcore bands. I ran across King Ly Chee, a hardcore punk but a bit metal-inspired band. I liked their music a lot and thought I'd check them out when I got to Hong Kong. When I arrived, they were on tour and were playing in Korea or something like that. I didn't see any shows listed anytime soon, so I kind of forgot about it.

Just the other day I was thinking about how much I missed going to shows. Last year I went to around ten, and here I hadn't gone to any in seven months. Pretty sad. On Friday night, I randomly decided to look them up again and saw that they had a show on Saturday, the next day! Unfortunately, I had planned to go the movies with some friends. I called one up and apologized for ditching them. I felt a bit bad, but then again, I hadn't gone to a show in seven months and I didn't know when they'd have another one. They said on their site that they don't really like doing Hong Kong shows. I also messaged Hamish, the only person I know in Hong Kong who kind of likes this kind of music, and asked if he wanted to go too, but he had to come a bit late.

I had to work on Saturday, of course, but I got off work at six thirty. As soon as I was done, I rushed over to the MTR station. I didn't even have time to eat dinner! The show was in an old factory building in San Po Kong. I had trouble finding the entrance, but saw a bunch of people dressed in black going in this small entrance. Bingo.

There weren't many people there at first, and I stood there for a long time, waiting for the show to start. It was really odd at first, because the back became super crowded, but there was this HUGE space in between the people and the stage. It's like no one wanted to get anywhere close to the stage. The first band, Protoss, asked everyone to move forward, and they grudgingly agreed, still leaving a very large space up front. I didn't really want to stand in front, since I stand out enough anyway, but I felt bad that no one was moving forward so I ended up at the front on the side.

I really liked the first band, Protoss, an all-Cantonese metalcore band. I really enjoyed their sound, but the crowd was pretty sucky. They all just stood there with a bit of head-bobbing. I did a bit of head-banging and stuff, but it's weird when you're the only one. I was missing Rosey, my concert buddy!

The next band was Shepherds the Weak. I liked them as well, and was quite happy that the crowd picked up. There was even some moshing and dancing and running a circle pit. I felt much more uninhibited in my dancing. I really like that there was much more pure dancing/headbanging than at most of the shows I went to in the US. There was always some, but not too many people. The last show I went to, As I Lay Dying and Demon Hunter, me and Rosey and a couple other guys were all in a line dancing, but not many others were. Yeah hardcore dancing!

Hamish showed up in between sets so that was cool. He had a nice video camera with him, so that prevented him from joining in too much of the festivities, sad day. The next band was a post-hardcore band of Westerners (English!) called This Is Ammunition. I had listened to them before the show and liked the brief listen, but it didn't transfer as well into a live show. It's not like they were bad or anything, but they had several strikes against them. First, similarly to bands like As Cities Burn, they just sound better in a recording. Secondly, their music is not as easy to rock out to as metal. Finally, they're a newer band with not quite the same fan following as the others. Still, they were fun too.

THEN....King Ly Chee. This band has been around for a long time, like ten years or something. They're supposedly the founder of the Hong Kong underground hardcore scene. They're also really into activism and social change, so that's pretty awesome. They're also funny. Their lead singer, Riz, went into a long rant about Canto (Cantonese) pop which is the dominant music genre over here. During the whole show he kept going in and out of English and Cantonese. It was pretty funny because sometimes he'd switch in the middle of a sentence and never translate the rest. So he'd say stuff like, "Do you know why there are all these names on the stage?" Then he'd switch to Canto so I'd just make up my own version of why there were names on the stage. Fun times.

King Ly Chee was definitely good. They'd better be, considering how long they've been a band. :) The crowd really got into it, especially towards the end, which made it really fun. During a couple of the songs, people were just going insane. I liked that it wasn't as intimidating as US shows, since the guys were smaller, on average. Not that I'm saying that all Asians guys are small; definitely not. BUT it is true that they were mostly my size, a bit smaller, or a bit bigger. Not too bad. Even though I love US shows, I do try to stay away from the really big guys. Even at this show, there were a couple of Western guys there who joined in at the very end of the show and I was trying to stay out of their way. I said I wasn't going to mosh or anything, but it seems much safer than the last time I did it, so I might have done it a little bit. Just a little.

Since Hamish had his video camera handy, he taped a bit of the show. If you've ever wondered what goes on at such shows or why I'm so addicted to shows, then have a look. Of course, it's pretty hard to get the feel through watching, but maybe you'll get a glimpse of the incredible energy that goes on at shows. SO awesome.
Here's something wonderful called a circle pit. I don't always get in them, since they're hard to get out of and can turn a bit violent, but they didn't seem bad at this show.
And here's a bit of the fun/dancing.

Anyway, my neck's sore and I have this strange welt on the back of my leg (how in the world did that happen on my calf?), but it's all worth it. Hopefully I'll get to go to a couple more of these shows. There's supposed to be one next month...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cool It

It finally started to cool down. When I woke up this morning, I was a bit chilly, even with two blankets and a comforter. Now I'm in a conundrum because I didn't bring very much cold-weather clothing.
Whenever I talked to my parents when I was packing, they kept talking about how hot it was and how they didn't even wear jeans anymore. Thankfully, I still packed two pair. And I thought I was overdoing it!
My work is very casual, so I usually wear jeans on most days. Unfortunately, both of my jeans are wearing out! I'm not quite sure what to do now, since finding jeans here is no picnic, and I probably won't go stateside for quite awhile. I'm thinking of having Mom go to a Kohl's at Christmas and buy a random pair of dark-wash jeans. It's still a dangerous prospect because I usually have to try on ten to fifteen pairs of jeans before I find one that fits right, but all we can do is hope for the best.
I also am missing my comfy pj pants! I didn't bring flannel pants or sweats or anything! So now I'm wearing a pair of stretchy shorts and a hoodie. Yes.
Besides the difficulties, I am glad that the weather is finally getting cold-ish. It makes it feel a bit more like Christmas, although it still doesn't. It probably doesn't help that we haven't decorated or anything. Maybe I should make some eggnog or something.
Maybe I will.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Toni's Visit

Toni left this morning. Although it was short and I had to work a lot, her visit was quite wonderful! It all started at the airport. I stood for an hour waiting for her to come out of the gate, staring dutifully at the monitor in case she went out of the other gate. Then I feel a tap on my shoulder. Yep, she's standing right behind me. A whole hour watching for nothing! Apparently she came out the other gate and I missed her. I blame it on her hat. The whole time I was watching for blonde hair and she had to wear a hat covering it up! Oh well. Next time I'm going to tell her to come and find me. I'll be at the coffee shop reading.

After our hour and a half bus ride, we made it home! It was only eleven thirty, so we went and got dumplings at the hole-in-the-wall across the street. Then we walked around the praya (the park/walk by the harbor), talked, and then went to bed.

Saturday, I had to work all day, unfortunately, but my parents took Toni around. We met up as soon as I got off work. My friends Josh and Lillian called, and they were in the neighborhood. We met up with them and two of Josh's friends to go to a sushi shop.

Sushi shop!

The next day was church, and we got there a bit late (we stayed up talking until three so we were just a little tired). After church, we went out to get dim sum with Lillian. Dim sum is a bunch of little dishes which mostly come in round, wooden boxes. It's pretty darn delicious.

Dim sum!

Sunday night we finally made it to Ivan the Kozack's, a small Ukrainian/Russian restaurant. It's near the Escalators, the longest escalator system in the world. There's all sorts of restaurants and bars and clubs around the escalators. I had been to that place once before, but we had trouble finding it. We rode all the way to the top of the escalator system and then found it on the way back down. It turns out it's right at the beginning, down an alley. We split a chicken and mushroom blini and a strawberry and chocolate blini. The atmostphere was awesome.

Toni, contemplating the icon calendar at Ivan's.

After that we took the tram back to Wan Chai to go dancing. My swing dancing group meets every Wednesday, but occasionally it will meet on a Sunday or Saturday. We danced and talked for a couple hours and then headed home. Once again, we stayed up until threeish.

The tram!

I didn't have to work until one on Monday, so we decided to go to Stanley Market to do some Christmas shopping. We took a sampan over to Aberdeen and then a minibus from Aberdeen to Stanley. It was pretty fun, except I was almost late to work.

On the sampan!

Toni joined me during a free talk session and then read while I taught some more lessons. After I finished, we went to a Thai place to split some spring rolls and sticky rice with mangoes. Delicious stuff. We were trying to get to the light show, but didn't make it in time. We decided to give up and go to St.'s Alp, a Taiwanese tea place, but that was also closed! After that, we went to a market for more Christmas shopping. Unfortunately, most of the stuff there was closed as well. Fortunately, one shop was open and we found some good stuff.

After that, we headed home. We showed my parents our loot, talked awhile, then went out to get some dessert. There's a dessert shop down the street called "Kingdom Sweets" or something like that. We shared a huge plate of shaved, chocolate ice cream, which is always delicious. Finally, we walked on the praya and watched funny youtube videos before going to bed.

This morning at six thirty, I walked Toni to the bus stop and sent her on her way. I'm so glad she could come visit! It was definitely fun times.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Toni's Coming!

I'm sure this is old news for some of you (I've been blaring it around fb for a week), but my good friend Toni is coming to visit me! I love having visitors, and it will be especially nice to have Toni here.
It's a little sad that we don't have more time together (she's coming in Friday night and leaving Tuesday morning, and I have to work two full days), but we will certainly make the most of it. I've been thinking about all the things we should do, like eating dim sum and riding a sampan and getting smoothies at the corner and going to church and watching the light show and all that good stuff. So much fun is in store!
It's almost like Christmas is tomorrow. Oh boy!
This also reminds me how much I like having visitors. Hospitality is a big deal for me. Last year I used to have at least one person/group of people over for a meal a week. NowI have a lot less friends (nearby, that is) and I don't live in a central location in the city. It's not easy to drop by. Finally, since I live with my parents now in a small apartment (flat), I can't do anything without clearing it with them. They are very hospitable people as well, but it's still different.
Like, if I were living by myself I would totally sign up as a couchsurfing host. Basically, I would be letting people who are travelling sleep on my couch or floor when they're passing through. If I had the time, I would cook for them or show them around the city. Wouldn't that be awesome? I would be able to meet people from everywhere and help them out in a real way! Hong Kong also could use some couchsurfing hosts. According to the couchsurfing website, Hong Kong has two profiles, neither of which I could find. Thailand has over two thousand. C'mon, Hong Kong, that's lame.
If only I could do something about it. Sigh.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Music Monday: O Come O Come Emmanuel

This is also one of my favorites. It's very solemn, beautiful, and minor!

Apparently, this song was originally a Catholic hymn written in Latin (Veni, veni, Emmanuel). The modern version we are used to was written in the 1800s, but the original could be as old as the 8th century. It also might have been used as Gregorian chants or a processional for Franciscan nuns. Sweet!

Although we usually think of it as a Christmas carol, it's actually an Advent song. It's taken from Isaiah 7:14 which predicts the Messiah coming to us. Obviously Jesus has already come, but now we use Advent as a time to remember his coming as well as to look forward to his next coming.

The Latin (traditional) version.

The Sufjan Stevens (indie) version.

The August Burns Red (hard) version.

Monday, December 6, 2010


Saturday night I got to hear Francis Chan speak. For those of you who don't know Francis Chan, he wrote a book called "Crazy Love" and is now a popular speaker. He talked about truly accepting God's love and feeling secure in him. While talking about love, he brought up the topic of authority which kind of reminded me of some conversations I had today.

Francis said that one of the reasons he had such a hard time accepting the idea of God's love is because he grew up in a very traditional, authoritarian, Chinese household. His father's word was law, and harsh punishment would follow any infraction. For Francis, he could understand God as a holy, just God whom he needed to obey; he just couldn't wrap his head around the fact that that same holy God could actually love him. A lot of Chinese seem to have a similar experience with authority.

I've recently joined a lifegroup at my church. It's basically a group that meets weekly to talk about God and our lives, and pray for one another. There's only three in my group so far, Josh, Lillian, and I. Although we certainly don't agree on everything, we've been having a lot of fun together. We went out to eat for dinner, and our talk also brought up some interesting insights into authority.

I don't even remember what we were talking about, but Josh made some comment about how a guy would need to talk to a girl's dad before asking her out. I said that I wouldn't want a guy asking my dad first, and they both seemed very shocked. I was actually a bit surprised how shocked they seemed, since asking the girl directly is not exactly a groundbreaking concept.

Josh explained that he believes that the father is the head of the household. As the leader of the family, he has the responsibility to guide his children in their decisions. Josh went on to say that he had asked his father's permission before moving to Hong Kong, and initially his father had said no. Had his father continued to say no, he would have followed his father's wishes.

While I totally respect where he's coming from, I think in a completely different way. The independence stereotype is alive and well in my life. At eighteen, Dad told me that I was now an adult and I needed to start making my own decisions. During major life decisions in my life, I would call up my dad and talk to him about the pros and cons. He would listen and give advice, but he'd always tell me in the end that it was my decision, he couldn't make the decision for me. When I told him about our dinner conversation, his comment was, "What are you, fourteen?"

Basically, my parents tried to instill in me good sense and direction when I was younger; now they trust me to make the right choices. Even if it is a bad choice, it's my choice.

I can see the good and bad in both viewpoints. In the more authority-driven viewpoint, life decisions are made in the context of your family, your community. You have an older and wiser head to rely on, a leader to care for you. Maybe you would get bogged down by emotions or whims whereas a father could look out for your best interest. Francis Chan also pointed out that, unlike his other American friends, he understood the concept of God's authority. He didn't try to argue with God or get angry at God's decisions. He's God after all.

On the other hand, that can lead to a reliance on others. When things don't turn out, it's not your fault, it's your leaders fault. If only he wouldn't have made such a bad decision. It can take away incentive to think things through and figure out what God wants you to do. Also, what do you do about bad advice or bad leadership? Yes, God is the perfect authority that we all bow to, but authority figures on earth will never be perfect. They can make bad decisions. While I definitely condone getting the advice of older, wiser leaders, the ultimate consequences will be on you.

On my independent side of things, I think that we are ultimately responsible to God. Yes, we need to be in community, yes we need to listen to leaders. But God is the ultimate leader to who we should look. When we make our decisions, hopefully we are relying on his wisdom to help us make our decisions. Besides, this is my culture, the way I was raised. I can't just throw all of that away; it's stuck to me now.

Although I am stuck with this independent mindset, I need to remember that I am not a lone-ranger. I do need others and I cannot rely solely on myself. This can breed a narcissistic and self-righteous attitude that is not good for me or others. I need to watch these tendencies and root them out!

I'll conclude with our final dinner agreement. We're different; that's cool.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

What Next?

I know it's a long ways off, but lately I've been thinking about what to do after this year. My contract doesn't end until October, so I'll be here at least until then, but I don't know what I'll do after that.

Should I stay here? I like my job a lot. It's probably one of the most relaxed and (mostly) fun teaching jobs that ever was. As far as making money and paying off my loans, this is a pretty good place. I could probably make more money in Korea or China proper, but this is still decent. Besides, it's nice to have so many English-speakers around. It's nice for church, meeting people, getting directions, etc. On the other hand, it isn't so great for my language learning. I don't have as much incentive to learn Cantonese as I might if I had to use it to get around.

Another factor is whether my parents will still be here or not. Housing is SUPER expensive here, so it would be tough if I had to pay for my own house. Another thing that I don't like is how much money I spend here. Most of the people I come into contact with are definitely not as thrifty as my last group of friends. I always feel like a cheapskate because I don't like to pay much more than $5US for a meal (but we eat out so much!) and think the clothing prices are atrocious (not much for thrift stores, sadly). BUT I do like it here a lot, and it's a fun city to be in. Not such a huge fan of working six days a week, but it happens.

Should I go back to the States? I miss a lot about the States, some things more than others. Food is one of the things I miss the most. This is kind of lame since Hong Kong probably has the most Western food of any place in Asia, but it doesn't have everything and some of the prices make me stay away. Because of milk prices, we always use powdered milk. I'm not a huge fan of powdered milk, so I won't drink it; it's for cereal only. I used to drink a least two cups of milk a day. I think I've drunk milk maybe two times since I've been here. Sad. Also, I MISS MEXICAN FOOD! Or any kind of Hispanic food, really. Tacos, burritos, chips and salsa, horchata, pupusas....I could go on but I won't. I hear that there are a couple Mexican places around, but they look super expensive.

I miss friends a lot, but even if I move back to the States that won't change. If I went back, I would probably move to Denver and a lot of my friends are still in Arkansas and Oklahoma. But, I could still go see them. There are small things that I miss about living in the States. I can almost imagine a life in Denver, and it's so great. I always imagined what life after college would look like. I'd share a small house with some people, decorate it to my heart's content, work some kind of job, invite people over for dinner, welcome couchsurfers, go to lots of local events, cook and bake a lot, get involved in a church, hang out with teens, etc. I never thought I'd be over here. Although I'm so glad to be here, a part of me is waiting for the excitement of that "normal" life to start.

There are so many little things that I miss. Farmer's markets, driving, houses, concerts, people who like my music, hang-out nights with friends, seasons, thrift stores, jeans, used bookstores, decent libraries, eggnog, campfires, camping, playing in creeks, my pets, snow, snow ice cream, cars driving on the right, parades, carnivals, rodeos, traditions. Really, I don't think of these things THAT much, but they all come up every now and then. It would be nice....

Should I go somewhere else? Even while I dream about life in the States, I also think about other places I'd love to go. Thailand? I loved staying in Bangkok and was tempted to stay there. Somewhere in Latin America? I could really learn Spanish and experience yet another culture. Korea? More delicious food and good money to pay off my loans quickly. Because that's the rub, really. Places like Thailand or Latin America or the Philippines or somewhere in Africa would be awesome, but I would have to make enough to pay for these stupid loans. Who knew that they'd dictate where I'd live? If only I could wish them away and do what I want. Maybe I'd be able to work something out. We'll see, we'll see.

What do you guys think? Thoughts?

Friday, December 3, 2010

My Tired Ferris Wheel

I worked a long day today, about eleven hours. We had three teachers sick and two were on their off day. Sigh. I taught a lot today.
Whenever I have time to post, like tonight, it seems like I'm to tired or lackluster to do it. Whenever I'm in a class or on the bus going to work, ideas spin through my mind like an intangible ferris wheel, idea after idea flipping by. But when I face the screen, the carnival has left town. It didn't even leave any funnel cakes.
Maybe I'll be more inspired in the morning.
Maybe I should make some funnel cakes for breakfast...